Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Its raining Men (not) in Volunteer Management

I recently stumbled across an interesting blog in the US musing about the fact that 70-75% of nonprofit employees are women and wondering where all the men were.

I have been in the Volunteer management field for 13 years and have had some similar thoughts myself when it comes to the sector of Volunteer Management.

I happened to fall into Volunteer Management and instantly loved the role and have had 13 wonderful years in this sector. But I have to admit that from an early stage I did wonder why there weren’t more men in our field. It was very obvious to me, from an early stage, through attendances at network meetings, conferences and training workshops that I was very much in a small minority group. Mind you, there have been moments of good humour too. At the last Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management I attended I joined a table of 11 ladies for the retreat dinner. During our conversation I posed the question “where are all the men in our sector?” There was a brief pause until someone replied “Where are all the good looking men in our sector?” Ahem!

On a more serious note though when I pose some questions to myself about why this imbalance is the case in our sector I am challenged to reconsider my question given the fact that I imagine women would pose similar questions about career choices?

Why would I enter this sector when the pay is poor? (Whether perception of fact!)

Is there job security?

Is there opportunity for professional development?

Is there opportunity for advancement and promotion?

I’m no psychologist but does it all come down to motivation? Are men and women motivated by different things in different ways? Someone once told me that they believe that there were more women in the sector because “women were more naturally caring”. Huh? I am not too sure I buy that.

Volunteer Management for example is a dynamic profession in my view. It is challenging, rewarding, it effects change and it has the potential to make a significant impact on our society. It demands leaders, critical thinkers, intelligence, imagination, motivators and people who inspire and yes!

A fascinating and inspiring career that should appeal to both sexes!


  1. Interesting article DJ. Yep I know the feeling, having been one of the few females in a very male dominated computer industry in the early days of mainframe computer operators. Things change and times change. With the development of the micro chip the memory storage capacity which was once the physical size of three washing machines can now be stored within a microchip.

    I think that the gender difference in Volunteer Management is more about the history of the volunteer sector. The traditional stereotypical view for example of a hospital volunteer may be that of an elderly lady wearing a pink apron and pushing a tea trolley around the hospital. While people of this age group may be representative of some of the hospital volunteers, the volunteer team may now be comprised of many different generations both male and female. So perhaps the traditional stereotypical view of the volunteer manager may be of a middle aged, kindly, lady who “looks after the vollies”. As the demographics of the volunteers have diversified and changed over time so too have their roles and those of the volunteer manager. Volunteer managers now needs to be forward thinking to develop creative solutions to provide meaningful engagement for a diverse group of volunteers with very different wants, needs and aspirations while ensuring policy. procedures and government regulations are also being met.

    I recently had a phone call from someone needing the services of a volunteer. She asked “Would you send one of your lovely little volunteers . . . . .”

    It would be soooo tempting to say “Yes would you like one gift wrapped and they come with a box of chocolates”.

    Unfortunately we still have a long way to go educating people.

  2. The men are all in the corporate sector and get invited to be the key note speakers at volunteer management conferences, and when they come, they tell us everything that's wrong with volunteer management and the nonprofit/NGO sector and why we need to be more like the corporate sector.

    Seriously, WHY do volunteer management conferences *consistently* invite men from the corporate sector as the keynote speakers?!

    And, seriously, WHY do I have to suffer through men from the corporate sector who have never worked as volunteer managers telling me what's wrong with volunteer management?!

    Also, great comments, Wendy. "“Would you send one of your lovely little volunteers . . . . .” UGH!

  3. Great points Wendy! I loved the "lovely little volunteer" analogy! Its like the response we sometimes get when people ask what we do for a living....."How lovely"

  4. Great passion in your response Jayne! I get where you are coming from. it resonates with my "bring us to the plenary" article!!!

    Where are the great debates about matters like this in our sector? Why are we not engaging in debate?

    We must love the echo chambers right now! We must love the echo chambers right now! We must love the echo chambers right now!

  5. Saw you referenced my original post on Apparently our world has the same issue everywhere. Don't know if that's more comforting or frustrating.


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